Monday, July 14, 2008

An Occupational Hazard

To the students whose essays I marked this afternoon:


WHY MUST YOU MAKE ME SUFFER?

Here are a few simple writing tips:

1) If your thesis is "The characters in these novels are all different, but they share many similarities" YOUR ESSAY WILL SUCK.

2) If there are serious grammatical errors in EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE of your introductory paragraph, my head will explode.

3) The following ideas are not interesting or challenging enough to be worthy of proving in a university paper. They are ideas that are immediately obvious to every reader, including small children.

Villains play a key role in advancing the plot of the novel.

Without the villain, the heroes would not have had anyone to fight against and there would not have been a story.

The villain is an evil character, but good always wins out in the end, proving that you should always have hope.


4) If this sentence appears anywhere in the essay, I will clutch the arms of my chair in agony and I will groan aloud:

Throughout this essay the different characteristics in which a villain can possess will be examined leading to an analysis of the crucial role a villain plays in progressing the plot and developing the theme of good verses evil.

My eyes! My eyes!

46 comments:

cinnamon gurl said...

Poor, poor you. I think you need a little paint chip therapy to recover.

jess said...

Oh, it hurts, it hurts!!

Mouse said...

I used to get essays like that in an AP class--at a school that liked to brag about how above-average its students were. For many of them, I was the first teacher to explain how to write a standard five-paragraph essay (with variations). Even worse has been encountering these at university when I have 80-150 to wade through!

Trillian just reminded me of a student she met with who argued against the D grade she received for her 1-page paper (only because she wasn't allowed to give Fs). It was 14-point font with 2-inch margins; the student had summarized the story and insisted that her "thesis statement was implied."

wheelsonthebus said...

I always told my students they had to start with a question that they did not know the answer to. I did not let them start writing the paper till the question seemed like one they actually had to think about -- and all for just this reason!

Mad said...

A line I once marked on a paper:
"The temptation to read the blood-stained morning newspaper comes in spurts."

My friend Marie got this gem:
"Lear demands oral love from his daughters."

If only your painful experience today had yielded a laugh or two...

slouching mom said...

oh, dear.

oh, dear dear dear.

Omaha Mama said...

Was it a Miss America contestant that was so widely panned in the states for her response to a question? She was all "in which and like...". Is she now your student?
Makes me think I should pull out a few of my Eng Lit papers from freshman year for a flashback. It was a rude awakening for me as well in which I realized that I was like, not a terrific writer in which who had a lot of learning to do, ya know.

Bea said...

OM - I know! What is it with the "in which"? They're everywhere this year, and it's driving me mad.

jadine said...

Holy Toledo.

Lady M said...

Sigh. It's even worse than the marketing drivel we turn out when on deadline.

mek said...

OMG - you're reading my students' papers...and they haven't even turned them in yet!

I'm suddenly reluctant for school to start again.

Cyndi said...

Please tell me that you are not serious. Your exaggerating, right?

kgirl said...

Oh. Dear.

flutter said...

You are hysterical

Florinda said...

I truly do feel for you. I could NOT do your job. I also can't understand why primary and secondary schools don't seem to be teaching basic writing skills anymore.

Heidi said...

If you think university papers are bad, I would love to share with you some of my former high school students' papers. They are, quite frankly, damnably awful.

My favorite is: "In this essay I will discuss how Hamlet is really a good guy." Oh, good heavens.

Kia said...

LOL! I don't know how you do it. I think I would read the first paragraph of each paper and stop there. Forget the rest of the paper!

Bea said...

Cyndi - Exaggerating? Au contraire. They were actually worse before I Google-proofed them. (They're not ALL that bad, though. Just the ones I marked yesterday.)

Heidi - At least it didn't say "In this essay it will be discussed..."

Andrea said...

Oh dear.

Be strong. It will all end (temporarily) soon.

Beck said...

This comment is about me being impressed by a blogger's - in this case, Bea from Bub and Pie - cleverness. The conflict arises when I am too freaking dumb to leave a smart comment in return. The action is resolved by me leaving a dumb comment.

Swistle said...

I EAT UP all this teacher's-eye-view stuff. LOVE. So funny.

Pieces said...

That last one is a doozy. Is that how you spell "doozy"? Now I am nervous. It is bad if I have a spelling error in the first sentence of a comment.

kittenpie said...

Ha. I recall marking some essays for my dad once (while 8.5 months pregnant, actually... why do I take this stuff on?) and just being gobsmacked by the sheer crapitude. I bet it was the hardest marking those kids got all year. I made comments, too, so they couldn't complain it was unfounded. Yeesh.

Janet said...

I immediately forgot what I was going to say when I read Beck's comment. Hahahaha!

I'm also a little paralyzed by the fear that I will make a grammatical error. :)

I will say that the picture you chose to accompany your pain is absolutely perfect.

minnesotamom said...

I do not envy you. This is enough to make me weep.

Marian said...

Even I, Queen of the run-on sentence, am aghast.

Ann Kroeker said...

It's text-messaging, instant messaging, and Facebook boards, I tell you.

The practice of communicating using nothing but shallow words and phrases chopped to bits, imho, has stunted thoughtful analysis in our young people.

Or maybe it's us, the next generation up...maybe we've failed to teach them to think?

Or maybe, like everything, it's overdetermined (is that the right word?).

Sorry you're dealing with the intellectual consequences (or lack thereof) of whatever has brought Western youth culture to this point.

How can you escape and replenish your mind? Maybe a few episodes of Masterpiece Theater?

painted maypole said...

ha ha ha ha ha

Oh... when I restart Monday Missions I could have one be in the form of a bad university Essay. that might be a riot. remind me, would you, come Sept when i restart them? ;)

Carrien said...

You remind me of one of my favorite David Duchovny moments in Evolution.

Where he give all of his students As except for one very stupid essay that he quotes verbatim.

I'd quote it but then I'd really be a nerd.

Point is, you are funny.

ewe are here said...

Oh the pain.

Can you drink and grade at the same time to take the edge off? heh heh

Paula said...

Thanks again for the blog encouragemnt but, after reading your latest post, now I'm afraid to show you! But I shall risk it. Please excuse any grammatical errors :oS Paula (Dawn's friend!) http://www.paulaslistof5.blogspot.com/

Stimey said...

I imagine you must have to read a lot of bad writing. Hopefully there's some good in there too.

Chaotic Joy said...

Hmmm. I for one read this and turned two shades of red imagining the poor grades you would give my writing. My grammar is so awful I don't even know when it's awful. It's often a source of frustration (and embarrassment!) for me. I suppose it would be a wee bit self indulgent go back and take some college writing classes now for the sole purpose of improving my blog content.

What a shame, too. I think I would actually enjoy them at this point in my life.

planetnomad said...

Sigh...what memories you have brought back :) I'm so glad to not be grading essays.

Mimi said...

Oh Bea, I feel you. Sorry.

Bea said...

Joy - People sometimes ask me if I cringe at things I read on blogs, and if this post demonstrates anything it's that I have NEVER read anything on anyone's blog that's in the same ballpark as some of those essays.

Hannah said...

At least you are giving them the poor marks they deserve. My sister just finished her first year at a university that shall remain nameless and her English prof apparently DOES mark papers while drunk, because what passes as "A" material curled my hair.

b*babbler said...

You know, periodically I think to myself "teaching. That's a job I'd be interested in pursuing, post SAHMommying."

Then I read entries like these and talk to my in-laws, recently retired from high-school teaching, and realize its not worth it.

I like my head on my shoulders. Not exploded into a million tiny pieces all over the classroom!

nomotherearth said...

I'm not even sure what that sentence is supposed to mean -- I lost interest halfway through.

the dragonfly said...

Wow.

I hope you survived with your brain undamaged...

!!

bren j. said...

Seriously? Oi. Is this a first-year English class?

trudymorgancole said...

Right there with you, except mine are trying to pass high school so yours look brilliant by comparison.

Julie @ Letter9 said...

I SO feel your pain. So So SOOOOOO. At times I want to find it appalling and shocking and demoralizing how unintelligent my students are, and then I realize it's probably not their intelligence but their willingness to make ANY SMALL AMOUNT OF EFFORT. Sometimes I want to say, "Hey, guys, don't be afraid to have an actual thought, OK?"

Middle Aged woman said...

I'm feeling really good now about many of my 6th grade writers (the fact that I said 6th grade instead of Grade six, I think, immediately identifies me as a fer'ner. I'm in the US). However, let me share my two pet peeves for writers who are 11-12 years of age:

1. Beginning an essay (or any other writing piece) with, "Hello, my name is...and I'm going to tell you about..." ICK!

2. Ending with, "In conclusion, I'd like to say (word for word what I said in the first paragraph)."

Mouse: I had a brilliant prof who used to reply to students who asked, "Why did I get a B (horrors!)on this?" by saying, "Because you did a really good job."

Moondance said...

Re: Beck's comment - hehehehe

Mary Beth said...

I just came over from Painted Maypole.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present ... the future leaders of our country.

Hopefully, the year will get better:)